In this CTH Student Voices, we talk to CTH Professional Cookery graduate, Lesia Alexander who now works in the stunning Caribbean island of St Vincent & Grenadines at the Tenuta Chatham Bay resort.
Hi Lesia, please tell us some of your favourite memories of studying CTH at Vaughan’s Cookery School.
My favourite memory? That can be a difficult one, my experience studying CTH has given me so many memories that I will never forget and will forever be grateful for.
One that really stands out would be, that I was given the opportunity to be a part of a very skilled catering team through Vaughan's Cookery School; preparing a banquet for 2 wedding parties at a very high-end establishment. Putting me out of my comfort zone, as this was my first experience working in this environment. It was the perfect occasion for me to establish a good working relationship with fellow students and teachers.
The most satisfying part of it all, was to see how we made someone’s special day that bit better, the gratitude shown from the bridal party, really gave me a sense of fulfilment. This was the reason I decided to become a chef.
That sounds amazing. Tell us, what do you think about the general learning experience whilst studying your CTH qualification?
I had been working in a kitchen for about 10 years before my boss suggested I take the CTH Culinary course at Vaughan's Cookery School. During this time, I worked with very experienced chefs at Tenuta Chatham Bay resort, learning about cookery and food preparation. I really did think that I was clued up on everything there was to know about kitchens. Once I started my course, I soon realised that there were masses that I didn’t know.
The content within the course is so in-depth, it really gave me a new insight to the industry and my prospective professional career. Food hygiene, purchasing, legislation, all things that were new to me, at first it seemed daunting, however with the support of the teachers, what seemed so out of reach, became not a challenge, but a drive and passion to learn more.
This sense of determination to do better, to push yourself, this came from the experience and professionalism shown by everyone at CTH, and for this, I am truly grateful, it has got me to where I am today.
That's really great to hear, professional growth is extremely important. So, what did you do after completing your CTH qualification?
After I received my qualification, I returned to Tenuta Chatham Bay with a new vision and sense of determination. Shortly after, I succeeded my predecessor, who sadly retired from the position.
I found myself managing a kitchen, not to how I was taught during my tenure as kitchen assistant for 10 years, but by the knowledge and qualifications I had gained during my time studying CTH. Guest satisfaction was my priority, and I couldn’t have achieved it without fully understanding the fundamentals of kitchen management.
You've done very well for yourself Lesia. What do you think is the best part of managing the kitchen at the resort and what are the challenges?
The hotels philosophy is to provide great quality fresh food, the biggest challenge I faced, would be trying to keep a consistent menu for the resort and our guests. Our location is remote, and it can be difficult to sustain consistency with the produce that is on offer from the island.
Adapting menus and specific dishes is almost inevitable, depending on what the local market has on offer that day. This is a challenge that I have learned to deal with. Adapting to market offerings, whilst providing a quality culinary experience for our guests.
It does sounds challenging, but at least there's never a dull day. Lastly, what advice would you give to all the CTH students around the world?
The only advice that I can give, is to never stop trying to better yourself professionally. Getting a qualification from CTH has really made me the person I am today, I am so very proud to have been given the opportunity and cannot stress enough how it has changed me, not only as a person, but my career as a whole. I personally think, that to become even better at what you do, it must come from the right base for developing your career and personal success, and this is what CTH offers.
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
Thank you CTH!!!!!
No, thank you Lesia, that was great. Thank you for being involved in CTH Student Voices! If you're a CTH graduate or a current student and would like to get involved, please email [email protected] for more information.